Three California Magazine stories on the science beat this spring focused on the environment. All's Well That Tends Wells, an online feature, unpacked California's new water law. Two briefs covered recent research: a long-term study on how pesticides are impacting an agricultural community, and the challenges of (and solutions for) measuring chemicals in personal products.
The drought gets a lot of undeserved blame for California’s water crisis. Naturally, four dry years have exacerbated the problem, but the real culprit is the state’s Gold Rush–era water law, which has allowed landowners to sink wells that suck ever deeper and drier — unfettered by any accountability to their neighbors, their region, or the state. Historically low groundwater levels have resulted, spawning all kinds of Wild West drama. The Central Valley is sinking! A thousand Tulare County wells go dry! Fishermen, farmers, conservationists and tribes duke it out over depleted fisheries in the Scotts River. Journalistic treatises compare the political machinations to filmmaker Roman Polanski’s classic California water wars noir Chinatown.
But now that the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act—a trio of three bills that Gov. Jerry Brown signed in 2014—has been rolling out for a full year, all that drama is behind us, right? The sheriff’s in town now. The state’s big, contentious mess of a water crisis finally is regulated. Not so fast. Continue